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July 3, 2013 at 6:00 AM
A new system of student loans is needed
The level of student-loan debt is crippling the generation of Americans that is emerging into adulthood. [“Editorial: Congress must rein in student-loan rates,” Opinion, July 2.]
The burden of this debt goes beyond the individual. It has consequences for the future of the country and its economic health. The housing market is in more jeopardy, as young adults do not have the means to purchase a first home, which has implications for those trying to sell their first home to move up to a second home. A bottleneck forms, which impacts the entire housing market negatively. This is but one consequence of this debt.
The rising load of credit-card debt is exacerbated because of the lack of ready cash to pay for day-to-day living. Congress just doubled the interest rate on student-loan debt from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. This is not an answer to the problem.
What if there were another way to fund higher education? Instead of paying in to Social Security over the course of your working life and taking it out at retirement, what if those funds were available to be prepaid? Social Security money could be paid out up front to fund a college education. The graduate would pay it back over the course of their career, paying interest along the way to Social Security. At retirement, they could have the amount of principle and interest of their prepayment deducted from their payout.
The Social Security Administration would get the benefit of the interest payment, thereby adding to its coffers, and students coming out of college would have more available income. There’s the germ of a really good idea here.
Irene Wilson, Bainbridge Island
Congress needs to act
Last week, Congress let down students, families and the economy when it failed to prevent the interest rate on subsidized Stafford student loans from doubling.
Congress was blocked in its attempts to prevent the increase by legislators who insisted on charging students more for their loans as a way to lower the deficit. As a result, the rate on these loans doubled to 6.8 percent on July 1.
This increase will cost more than 100,000 student borrowers in Washington an additional $919 on each loan they take out.
This failure will not only affect student borrowers, it will also harm the economy.
Fortunately, Congress can still act this summer to pass a retroactive extension, before colleges issue student-loan packages in August and September.
I urge Congress to protect students and the economy by acting quickly to reverse this rate increase.
Micaela Preskill, Seattle
University costs are out of control
In Danny Westneat’s column, he stated that the public contribution toward student tuition at the University of Washington has decreased from 90 percent of the tuition load in 1981 to 30 percent in 2013. [“Yes, we paid tuition with summer job,” NW Sunday, June 23.]
He also wrote that tuition has increased from $687 annually in 1981 to $12,500 annually today. He bemoaned the “fact” that the lack of an appropriate public contribution has “starved” the university system.
Before making that judgment, it would have made sense to examine how fast tuition has increased compared with how fast the public contribution has increased.
Using his numbers and numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the last 31 years: UW tuition has increased over 18 times, the cost of living has increased 2.6 times, and the public contribution to tuition has increased more than six times.
Thus, the public contribution to tuition has increased faster than the cost of living since 1981, while the UW annual tuition has increased faster than either.
I agree that the public should pay a lot more in order to keep the price of tuition more affordable. I believe it is critically important to keep a college education reasonably affordable. But it is difficult to ask for additional public assistance when it appears that the increase in university costs are out of control.
John Orose, West Seattle
June 24, 2013 at 8:00 PM
Taxes should be raised
I appreciate Danny Westneat’s candor in exposing the myth of the self-made man in this country. [“Yes, we paid tuition with summer job,” NW Sunday, June 23.]
He has rightly pointed out that his generation and the one before him were able to work their way through college because back then, college tuition was cheap. It was cheap because we as a society were willing to pay taxes to support public universities.
Where he fails, however, is throwing his hands up in despair and telling the current generation that we are on our own. Why should we be? We could put more money into the public universities at any moment. The capacity is there. The only thing that is lacking is the will.
The selfishness of Westneat’s generation and the generation before him is still alive and well, even if Westneat and his peers and elders have enough decency to be ashamed of it. They took the ladder up with them, though they say they are sorry.
A better apology would be raising taxes on themselves, as their grandfathers and great-grandfathers did, to finance the colleges and universities that are the lifeblood of our democracy and the engine of our economy.
We are faced with a choice between socialism and barbarism. We’ve had a kind of creeping barbarism that has been growing, like a cancer, for more than twenty years. It is time to reject this barbarism, this age of diminished expectations.
Right now, the forces of barbarism hold the upper hand. We are lectured about deficits when people are out of work and students shoulder massive debts to pay for their education. We are told we cannot raise taxes when a select few have become unimaginably wealthy, often without performing any useful labor or producing any useful product. In the fight between socialism and barbarism, whose side are you on?
Michael Epton, Seattle
Lack of funding is not baby boomers’ fault
Danny Westneat’s Sunday column is demagoguery that has no place in a major metropolitan newspaper.
Westneat says, “how we milked the public university system in this state and then starved it will go down as the great badge of shame of my generation and the one before mine, the baby boomers.”
Funding for public universities in Washington is determined by the state Legislature, and not by his generation nor by baby boomers. Singling specific generations out for shame and blame is not helpful to this process, nor is it accurate.
The Legislature is currently having a difficult time just funding state government, including, no doubt, public universities. This is not the fault of baby boomers or anyone else, but is due rather to exploding medical costs for state employees and the disadvantaged, reduced tax revenues due to a weak economy, and more spending by the Department of Social and Health Services.
David Johnson, Issaquah
Cost of schooling is a terrible burden
Hear, hear! Danny Westneat’s column regarding the state Legislature’s desertion of the University of Washington’s primary mission.
Going back even further, when I graduated from high school in 1951, in-state tuition and fees at the UW was $81 for a 45-credit year.
It was widely understood in those days that, as a publicly funded state institution, a key part of the UW’s mission was to keep costs low enough that any citizen of the state could afford to attend and graduate, without incurring major debts.
I consider it disgraceful that the Legislature has little by little withdrawn support of that mission, until my grandchildren are either being burdened with staggering debts or simply shut out of the learned professions, left with minimal qualification for decent-paying and fulfilling work in an increasingly complex world.
David Harris, Wenatchee
June 21, 2013 at 7:30 AM
Close tax loopholes, fund higher education
Let’s stop kicking our children off the ladder of opportunity with tuition increases, inadequate aid levels and doubling of student loan interest rates. Since World War II, higher education has been the path to equal opportunity and good jobs in America. That’s how we created the middle class and gave everyone — rich or poor — a shot at the American dream.
After four years of budget cuts, that dream is becoming a nightmare of high tuition, student loans the size of a home mortgage and a college degree out of reach for middle-class students from Bellingham to Walla Walla.
Even if we avoid a state shutdown on July 1, we still have a long way to go to restoring our higher-education system. Nationwide, state funding for colleges and universities is 23 percent lower than it was in 2008, when the recession hit. UW tuition has nearly doubled in the past five years, now consuming more than one-fifth of an average Washington family’s income. We can’t have a high-tech economy without a higher-education system. This is a job-killer.
We can provide funding for education while making our tax system more fair by closing tax loopholes that can’t show they produce jobs.
Rep. Gerry Pollet, 46th District, Seattle
June 18, 2013 at 6:32 AM
Pearls falling on boors
I had to take a second look to see that these young people were graduating Roosevelt High School, and not the School of Boorish Behavior. [“Guterson heckled for gloomy speech at Roosevelt graduation,” NW Friday, June 14.]
How sad, shocking and downright rude of these students and probably their parents! Nationally known local author David Guterson attends a graduation ceremony and presents a thought-provoking speech, only to be met by premature applause designed to get him off the subject and podium.
Did these twits learn nothing about openness to the ideas of others and respectful listening? In this situation, texting would have been a better option, as much as I hate to suggest it.
Guterson no doubt has material for his next best-selling book after this experience. Oh, and the musician who made the snide comment should get a copy of the Miss Manners Etiquette Guide.
Graduations, as with many other celebratory events, mark milestones that are about endings and beginnings, excitement and grief, loss and gain, mixed and often conflicting emotions. Unfortunately, many of the graduates did not think deeply enough about the presentation to absorb the pearls of wisdom that the speaker was trying to share. The expression “pearls before swine” comes to mind. Or perhaps Pearls falling on swine!
Kathryn Pratt, Burien
Guterson addressed real issues
I just received a copy of David Guterson’s delivery to the Roosevelt High School graduating class. I applaud him for his courage in “getting inside” the skin and minds of the graduates.
He spoke honestly about issues parents are hesitant to address, perhaps because parents have not yet dealt with these issues. The sex talk is easy. Digging deep into quality of life is so much more complex.
Mary Ann Bailey
June 12, 2013 at 4:18 PM
Require U.S. history instead
The UW is not a liberal-arts college and diversity courses should not be a requirement if you are in math, engineering, business, computers, etc. [“UW to require diversity course,” NWMonday, June 10]. This seems to be politically driven by some minority students.
I believe that all students, including minority students, would be better off if they were required to take courses in the U.S. Constitution, the American free-market economy, American history and Western civilization — especially minority students who were not born in the United States. They would be well served by learning about our culture.
Paul Smith, Mercer Island
Embrace diversity everywhere
I appreciated Lornet Turnbull’s reporting on the new diversity requirement for incoming UW undergraduates. It is ironic that the UW is finally coming to this realization while Seattle Public Schools is doing everything in its power to shut down an award-winning diversity curriculum being taught at the Center School and punishing the teacher by transferring him to a middle school [“Seattle Public Schools stumbles on race, teacher Jon Greenberg,” seattletimes.com, June 7].
All of this seems to further the argument that the school district and Superintendent José Banda are either way out of touch or being used to push some other agenda.
Brad Vanderburg, Seattle
June 3, 2013 at 6:04 AM
It’s not that simple
From a university student’s view, we don’t actually get to always pick our loans or the loan options that we are given [“The cost of a college education,” Northwest Voices, May 20].
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) determines the need that we have for financial aid and that is reported to the universities that we attend (or choose to have it sent to) and from there, the universities decide what loans we receive and how much they will be worth. We do not always get the loans, for some are the Parent PLUS Loan, which requires our parents to jeopardize their credit and put it to the test to try to help us get the loans that we need to pay for our education.
Please, tell me again how we somehow choose the worst options for loans. Also, in regard to the section of your letter in which you state that we are surprised that we can’t pay off our loans with entry-level position salaries, we don’t intend to get those positions. That is the point of our degree — to make it so we don’t have to start at an entry-level position and a salary that can’t help us get ahead on our loans.
Dana Henry, Bellingham
May 20, 2013 at 6:37 AM
Do the math
There have been numerous articles on the burden of student debt on college graduates citing loan balances of $80,000, $100,000 or more [“Student debt hurts more than just grads,” seattletimes.com, May 10].
I am a firm believer in availability of a college education for anyone who desires one, and in Washington there are many loan options. What I don’t understand is the notion someone opts for the most expensive of their options without any regard to the debt levels they will accumulate and their ability to repay.
Most of the individuals interviewed in these articles act like the level of debt and entry-level earnings that won’t fund repayment are a total surprise. Maybe the inability to do that basic math should have been a consideration in their decision whether or not to attend college — or at least which one.
Rick Hawley, Bellevue
May 10, 2013 at 6:02 AM
Competition, not citizenship, drives tech industries
It is tough to pinpoint whether companies such as Microsoft, Facebook and Google bring in people with H-1B visas with the intention of getting the same quality of work for cheaper wages as they would get from a US. college graduate [“Do visas for skilled foreigners shut out U.S. tech workers?” page one, May 5].
Shouldn’t the most qualified person for the job get it? I do think this industry specifically requires its workers to be highly adaptable because technology is always changing and the brightest individuals who will bring new innovations to a company are the most valuable.
While many U.S. graduates are having a tough time finding a career in this industry with degrees that fulfill the qualifications, I do not think the issue of foreign workers shutting out U.S. graduates is accurate.
These major companies know what they are looking for in new hires regardless of citizenship. Competition is what drives this industry forward, and if the jobs are just handed to an individual based on citizenship, there would be no room for growth or new ideas.
Kyle Andrew Stricker, Renton
May 2, 2013 at 6:33 AM
Prepare students to lead in evolving energy economy
Let’s put an even sharper point on the fact that our state needs more university degrees per capita [“Misperceptions stymie lawmakers on budgeting for college tuition,” Opinion, April 30]. Anyone who has traveled or worked abroad can readily see that the United States lags far behind much of the world when it comes to developing a clean-energy economy.
In order for our children and grandchildren to thrive, we must create the infrastructure to prepare university graduates to be managers and leaders in the evolving energy economy. Western Washington University’s Institute for Energy Studies is perfectly poised to do just that. It is one of the wisest investments our state-elected officials can make.
Roberta Riley, Seattle
April 29, 2013 at 7:27 AM
Need for STEM graduates is indisputable
The Economic Policy Institute study presents a picture of America’s STEM-worker shortage and STEM-education crisis that is vastly different from authoritative research on this topic [“Study: Shortage of U.S. STEM graduates a myth,” Business, April 25].
Most researchers agree there are not enough qualified workers to fill currently vacant American jobs or the jobs the nation is expected to add in the future that require experts like computer scientists, mathematicians and engineers.
One flaw is that the study uses the category of “information science,” which includes librarians, social scientists and other professions that artificially inflate the pool of STEM workers.
The reality is the U.S. economy will produce about 120,000 computer-science jobs annually through 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, we only produce 40,000 bachelor’s degrees in that field each year.
After graduation, 43 percent of STEM graduates do not work in STEM fields. Furthermore, 46 percent of workers with a bachelor’s degree in STEM will leave their field after two years in the workforce, according to a Georgetown University study.
The need for more graduates in STEM fields is indisputable. Any look at the facts shows our nation needs to invest in and improve STEM education if we are to compete globally, now and in the future.
Beneva Schulte, executive director, inSPIRE STEM USA, Chevy Chase, Md.
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